Somalia's NIEC blamed for undermining Puntland reconciliation efforts
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] has been accused of undermining reconciliation efforts in Somalia, amid disagreements over the implementation of the contentious electoral law.
Already, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has assented to the disputed bill, which was unanimously endorsed by Somalia's Upper and Lower chambers, despite opposition from a host of stakeholders.
Halima Ismail, the NIEC chairwoman, on Sunday lauded Parliament and Villa Somalia for "acting in speed" to pass the law, which could play an integral role in guiding the much anticipated December polls.
But Puntland, one of the state which has rejected the law, calling for immediate dialogue before implementation, faulted the commission for "taking a common stand" despite protests from a number of stakeholders.
In a statement, the Said Deni-led administration termed NIEC's endorsement for the law as "premature" and called for "consensus" for the sake of stability and cohesiveness in the war-torn nation.
The commission, Puntland State House observed, had set an unprecedented precedent by making pronouncements that could curtail attempts to have the law revised before December elections.
“The electoral commission, in its statement, was not supporting the electoral law but undercutting efforts by Puntland [to have the law revised] and its invitation [to the federal government and federal member states] for talks,” read the statement.
Already, Puntland has taken the reconciliation role, which would see Deni visiting Mogadishu and other federal states, to push for a conference which is tentatively slated to take place in Garowe.
Last week, Deni said "I am ready to visit Mogadishu to invite FGS and FMS leaders for negotiations" in a statement which was immediately backed by the United Nations, due to the trip's strategic importance to the country.
At a conference in Garowe, Puntland dismissed the electoral law as "draconian" and called for its suspension, arguing that it could precipitate "unprecedented term extensions" contrary to the constitution.
One of the contentious clauses is holding of universal suffrage polls, popularly known as "one-person-one-vote" which the state insisted that was "untenable" due to "lack of preparedness" and asked authorities to allow the next government to implement the recommendations.
Further, the law did not definite the criteria to identify the constituencies, implementation of the affirmative action [gender parity] in parliament, among other clauses that the opposition wants to be revised for the sake of stability.
But the international partners have been rallying for the universal suffrage model, and even vowed to support NIEC to deliver, amid challenges such as slow registration of voters and lack of offices in all states to steer the voter civic roles.
At Mogadishu on Sunday, Halima Yarey termed the approval of the law as a "historic step" towards Somalia's efforts to hold the first peaceful election in over four decades, adding that "it defines the country's future".
The agency's boss also asked lawmakers to fasten approval of political parties' bill, which would define criteria for nomination for parliamentary representation among other electoral regulations.
Under the new election laws, the citizens will vote directly for parties, with parliamentary seats being allocated according to the final tallies. Members of parliament will then elect the president and prime minister. The prime minister must come from the majority party in parliament, officials said.
A major contest is brewing between Farmajo and the candidate for Forum for National Parties [FNP], which has agreed to field one candidate. The coalition brings together six parties and would soon fold up for a single party.
Former Presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud are some of the bigwigs in the coalition. However, the current opposition, the Wadajir party, which is under Abdirahman Abdishakur, is yet to join hands with FNP.
Should Deni's efforts sail through, all political players in Somalia would negotiate for the country's future at Garowe, in which rules of engagement will be clearly outlined before the elections, analysts say.
NIEC, working inside the presidential palace for security reason, has been accused of misleading the people of Somalia after announcing it will hold one person, one vote election in a country that still faces the threat of Al-Shabaab.